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There is a new, to me at any rate, columnist in the Vancouver Province named Ethan Baron whom I enjoy. I was, however, amused and nonplussed by today’s article where he lists the errors of Gordon Campbell quite in contrast to The Vancouver Sun‘s editorial this morning praising the premier to the heavens. That the editor of the Sun‘s Editor Page is Fazil Mihlar, a Fellow of the Fraser institute, doesn’t, I’m sure, have anything to do with this fulsome praise for the departing premier.

What I was nonplussed about in Baron’s column was that it was accurate in the many low points of the Premier’s tour of duty but made me almost scream at the breakfast home, WHY THE HELL WEREN’T THESE MATTERS DEALT WITH BY COLUMNISTS AT THE TIME? In fact, it’s been amusing and annoying to see the Vaughn Palmers and Mike Smyths turn on their former hero during the last couple of months almost as if their editors had taken their leashes off.

A great part of Campbell’s political longevity can be attributed to the relative paucity of contradiction or critical analysis by columnists.

There was a time, not all that long ago, when columnists wrote about the government from a backdrop of contrariness based upon a mandate to “hold the government’s feet to the fire.” As one who was in the legislature and before that Kamloops City Council I didn’t much like what they did to me but I recognize now, if not then, that it was the critical journalist who kept my head from spinning and made me ever more cautious about what I was doing.

Whether it’s a city council, a legislature or a parliament, the public interest is harmed when the media pulls its punches.

We can look at fairly recent years to grasp this point. During the 90s, then Premier Clark launched his Fastcat ferries program. Vaughn Palmer was immediately on the case with column after column such that he can take most of the credit for exposing the issue as a major screw-up. I’m not picking on Palmer but simply am focusing on one major item which makes my point. Moreover, it’s not the writer’s fault but that of the ownership who, however subtly, steer opinion away from being critical of the status quo politics of the “establishment”.  It’s not that government policies are not covered but that they are relatively unchallenged.

This hasn’t simply been a BC phenomenon but throughout the world owners like Rupert Murdoch have been choking off freedom to speak out unless, of course, the government tends to the “left”, when anything goes when the whistle blows.

I find that with our papers, I have a hard time reading editorials past a paragraph or two. The fact that a Fellow of the Fraser Institute controls the editorial page of the Vancouver Sun tells me that I needn’t read the editorial page unless I’m going to the loo and the bathroom literature is badly out of date. In fact, the two Vancouver papers must be the fastest reads in the country.

Hopes that the Internet would change this have not been met. There are good online “papers” but they are so many and often so hard to find that their impact to date has not met expectations.

In conclusion I believe that the fact that Gordon Campbell ruled this province with almost non existent media challenge has kept him in office past his time and resulted in 10 years of right wing philosophy trumping all contrary viewpoints. It’s not drawing too long a bow to say it’s meant government by ideology of the ultra right wing Fraser Institute.

10 Responses to “The pundits and Gordon Campbell”

  1. John Milne says:

    I can’t agree more. I never have read the Province, and after the Sun’s pathetic coverage of Alexandra Morton’s event in Victoria, I seldom read the Sun any more.

  2. John Wood says:

    Campbells legacy will be around to haunt British Columbia for many years – not something to be proud of and certainly not good for the province.

    Little attention has been given to Campbell with regard to his personality and actions. What has been written about is often glib and serves no useful purpose. Had someone else exhibited the same traits in industry or in real life, precautionary measures would have been enacted or taken.

    I refer to the descriptions as shown in the links. Whilst I am not going to make an accusation – the descriptions paint an uncanny resemblance to Gordon Campbells actions and throws some light on what has been a troubling behaviour pattern to a lot of people. Of course the likes of the Sun and Province don’t want to comment.




    Given Campbell’s time in office and all the controversial behaviour shown, it is troubling that this is happening at all.

    Rafe, I am not trying to influence in any way, just think we need to look beyond Campbell and more at the what’s, why, when’s of the situation. Certainly the BC Liberals got elected on a platform of lies and have continued in the same vein since.


    John Wood

  3. Ed Seedhouse says:

    Well, newspapers are corporations, designed to make money by selling advertising. And there has been a steady rightward wind blowing from the corporate community since at least the 1950’s. I know because I was there. Remember CJVI 900 and “enterprise in action” by any chance?

    Thus other points of view don’t get discussed, and newspapers who criticise the right get less advertising, make less money, and that displeases the shareholders, most of whom are big businesses already. And these days, instead of being local corporations founded in the community they are all owned by even bigger corporations that keep them well under their thumb.

    I’ve been watching it for more than fifty years now, and you’ve been alive all that time too, Rafe, since you are my elder. Surely you’ve noticed it before. It is a steady wind of propaganda from the right that never ceases, but because it’s steady and strong most people don’t even notice that it is there, and thus become it’s victims.

    It’s far more effective, if rather less obvous, than the propaganda regime of, for instance, the Soviet Union. And now it’s gone world wide. The “left” (which is just a code world for those who see through the lies occasionally) has nothing to counter it with, since they don’t have the money.

  4. hixxille says:

    The sort of bilious personal attacks in normal practice these days is the sort of behaviour that keeps otherwise highly qualified candidates, like John Furlong, from even considering public office. That we have had politicians as good as Gordon Campbell and Carol James trying to serve the Province says more about their strength of character than several dozen little yapping dogs.

    The electorate has created to quality of politics in B.C.

  5. Evil Eye says:

    History will view Campbell as a self absorbed puppet, enriching his political cronies with BC assets sold off at garage sale prices.

    Campbell’s view is the Fraser Institute/Corporatist view that public assets must be sold off to the private sector, which profits go to the very few.

    That philosophy crashed and burned two years ago, yet like religious zealots, Campbell and his ilk carry on.

    Our current economy is nothing more than a ponzi scheme, where the average taxpayer is all but tapped out.

    The corporatist media propped up Campbell for at least 5 years, but the NDP also helped by having Carole James as leader. what is new is the power of the bloggist, the 21st century version of the pamphleteer, who is doing the work what the mainstream media has not done.

    The wailing and gnashing of teeth by the likes of Good, Baldry and Palmer demonstrate that their power as media types is waning.

    Carry on Rafe, carry on Gary, carry on BC Mary, we live in a very dark age of deceit and corruption and the public needs the spotlight of truth shone on those very evil dark places in Victoria and Vancouver.

  6. e.a.f. says:

    The media didn’t do their job while Campbell was in office. It was obvious the owners were onside with campbell’s activities. Of course it was different when glen Clark’s home was raided, gee they had to show the whole thing on t.v.
    While Campbell was in office about the only thing we ever read in the news or saw on t.v. were the shootings and gang activities. Real news, things which actually affected the citizens of this province, not so much.
    Even though BC had the highest rate of child poverty in Canada for 7 straight years there was no criticism of Campbell & crew, nothing about the impact this would have. they way the news was presented you would think all was well in B.C.
    The cuts to the medical system was never fully explored.
    No the majority of the press just went along with Campbell.
    Campbell liked to declare this was the best place on earth; well it was if you were rich and getting richer because he was making it possible for his friends.
    What went on with B.C. Hydro, ICBC, the P3Ps makes B.C. look like some third world dictatorship where the media steps in line with the government.
    The hospital’s are dirty, St. Joseph’s hospital in Comox lost its acreditation, schools are being closed, $22 Million cut from group homes, min wage the lowest in Canada, 45K forestry jobs went missing. I don’t know how this makes B.C. the best place on earth to live, maybe Campbell can explain that some day.
    If it weren’t for the blogs very little information about what is going on in this province would get out to the public.
    Keep writing about the environment!

  7. G Ruiz says:

    I agree that the media had much to do with Gordon Campbell’s longevity. It was a very different media from the one that premiers such as Bill Vander Zalm and Glen Clark had to face. This was a media that was strongly behind the premier until his HST fiasco and big collapse in public support. Even the pathetic televised address and suspicious report from the Fraser Institute declaring him the best financial manager of all Canadian premiers could not save his premiership. He should have been hammered for giving away BC Rail, breaking a contract with the HEU and being ordered to pay $85 million by the Supreme Court, awarding a ferry contract to Germany, privatizing BC Hydro, increasing our debt to over $60 million, and destroying the environment with fish farms, but the media made life easy for him. Add a relatively weak leader in Carol James and it’s no wonder he lasted so long.

  8. Relic57 says:

    Thank-you Rafe for sharing your well-founded views on our local media.

    I have also been driven to the point of apoplexy by the Sun. When I recovered from my latest fit, brought on by their coverage of Campbell’s resignation (read, ‘martyrdom’) I submitted this “Letter to the Editor”, which, for some mysterious reason, was not published.

    If you don’t mind. here is a copy.

    Editor, The Sun

    Vancouver Sun Helps Save Economy!

    Thank-you! Your whitewashing of Gordon Campbell’s career was so thick, glossy, and sopping with adulation that after reading it I could use the paper to paint the living room, saving me many valuable dollars I can pour directly into the economy.

    However in the headlong rush your journalists made to outdo each other in simpering sycophancy, several important factors were overlooked. Perhaps these disquieting facts were being brushed under the rug, as they so often seem to be in your establishment. No doubt the bulging carpets contribute to many accidents and concussed noggins, which would go far to explain the bewildering opinions, especially on the editorial page.

    The first point to make is that, despite the eulogistic tone of your coverage, the premier is not actually dead. A correction should be immediately placed in the next edition of the paper for his own reassurance, and that of his family.

    And although the Sun placed great importance on presenting the minute-by-minute chronology of the Messiah’s–excuse me–Mr Campbell’s life, not a word seems to have been addressed to situating him in the context of our times. I’m sorry, but I have bad news. Although the premier may have had a spectacular talent for siphoning resources from the many to the few, there was nothing original in him. Ultimately history will judge him as no more than a homegrown variety of the Reaganite hordes that hijacked the world in the early eighties. The relentless tax breaks for the rich, the shell games with the public, the devastation of social services, the manipulation of wages and resources for the working majority, the calculated erosion of real prosperity, the snide contempt for the poor and marginalized in society–sorry, but our premier stole all these ideas from his betters. It is a delicious little irony, though, that the latest transfer of wealth scam, name of the HST, did him in.

    The Sun also missed a more poignant human-interest angle when it breezed over the premier’s early teaching experiences in Africa. How did a man with what must have been a sincere interest in helping the poor, change so much over time, to ally himself with that sector of the political spectrum at most diametric odds with benevolent or altruistic concepts? How could he align himself intellectually with so-called ‘institutes’ that openly advocate the exploitation of third world people and their resources? How could he preside over the implementation of the most punitive and even malevolent social programs in Canada?

    These are only two subjects among the many The Sun neglected in its coverage of the premier’s resignation, but sadly, I’m not surprised. In the meantime, I look forward to more opportunities I can use it as an impromptu paint roller. I may even be able to go into business. In that case, maybe the Premiere wasn’t so bad after all.

  9. Hixxville says:

    Though he’s only lost one election in his political career, Campbell has NEVER been popular. He’s just seemed the best choice of what’s available at the time.

    He’s not personable as an entertainer. He’s not particularly gregarious. Even his wife warned everyone, years ago, that he liked to govern though he didn’t care much for politics.

    Thus, those who want the emotional rush of the bloodlust that normally goes in in Victoria have been starving for years. Let the feasting begin, vampires!

  10. G.J.W. says:

    As far as, the biased newspapers, radio and TV stations, I refuse to buy any of the goods their sponsors advertise. I have quit buying biased newspapers, too boring to read. When Campbell addressed the province, he said, he would be around for some months. He also said, he would continue on with his work. His work is dirty work as usual. I would ask people to read, Laila Yuile’s sea to sky highway blog. WARNING, hold your nose as you read. Campbell is to full of, hate, spite malice and too vindictive, to just quit. I saw through him, instantly. The same old, same old dirty tactics, he always uses, especially to stall for time.

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